I grew up in a pretty traditional English family – where you didn’t show your emotions too much, or bicker with each other, and you were encouraged to maintain your ‘stiff upper lip’ most of the time.
However, something my family did do really well was ‘silliness’. My mother is a wonderful joke teller – she would have family and friends in stitches around the dinner table and I was always amazed how she remembered so many jokes and never forgot a punchline.
April Fool’s Day was a big event in our household. Classic April Fool’s Day tricks included my father taking the door off our toilet, turning all the furniture upside down, and letting my siblings take me to the dentist for a fake appointment when I was terrified of going to the dentist (actually not so funny really – not your best parenting moment Mum & Dad!)
At school I was renowned for being a little bit silly. My friends and I played stupid pranks like wetting tampons and throwing them up to stick on the ceilings above our teachers' heads and waiting for them to dry and fall down! I even had a Bad Taste 18th birthday party where I dressed up as period (!)… you get the general idea!
But something happened to the silliness as I got older and life got in the way. Alongside my light-heartedness was an ever-present anxiety, particularly about my health and death. Long periods of low moods and dark thoughts clouded my teenage and university years. I backpacked around the world for 18 months in my mid 20's and although I had some amazing experiences and a lot of fun, I had a huge panic attack on my last night in New York and ended up in the ER Department, which was incredibly scary. This then led to more anxiety, depression and the panic attacks which haunted me through my late 20's and into my early 30's. This was also the time when and relocated permanently from the UK to Australia and married my husband.
These major life events were overwhelming, big and scary and I have to admit that life felt very serious and not much fun.
Then children joined in the picture. Whist bringing life into the world (3 boys in 5 years and a miscarriage too) was the most joyous and fulfilling experience, parenting was an additional challenge to add to my already just-a-little-bit-too-serious and anxiety-filled lifestyle. Children are magical and fun, but it is a huge responsibility to keep these little people who are 100% reliant on you alive, fed, well and happy. This often comes at the expense of our own wellbeing, health and sanity and this is definitely what happened to me.
In fact, it got so bad that I ended up in hospital in 2011 when my boys were 5, 3 and 18 months. I was there for 5 weeks and let me tell you it was no joke. There wasn’t much silliness going on when I wasn’t eating, was unable to leave the hospital and was in tears every day within a few minutes of waking up.
So why am I telling you this sad story?
Well, because it was rediscovering my silliness that saved me! Yes there was medication and meditation and exercise and therapy and getting back to work and making an effort to socialise etc etc. All these things gradually helped, but I knew that there was still a missing piece of the puzzle.
I re-discovered the importance of silliness when I started going on an annual wellness retreat as part of my journey back to wellness following my time in hospital. Some aspects of the retreats I visited were serious and involved extreme exercise, diets, silence etc, which I participated in but did not really love.
But what bought me the most joy was the people that I met, the friendships that I made and the laughs that we shared. Being on my own and away from my family was EVERYTHING– I was free to be JUST ME again and that included being the SILLY ME that I felt had disappeared and was gone forever.
One of my favourite stories is when my flight home to Melbourne was cancelled after an incredible 5 days at the AroHa Retreat in New Zealand. A group of us who had been at the retreat checked into a hotel and spent the next 24 hours together. Boy oh boy did we have fun – we ran around Queenstown like a bunch of loons and I don’t know about anybody else, but I enjoyed my extra time with the girls just as much as the time I had spent on the retreat.
I went to another retreat with two other girlfriends and we spent the whole weekend almost crying with laughter! We enjoyed all the wellness activities like yoga, meditation, getting out in nature but the most uplifting moments were laughing and giggling with my friends.
Every time, I returned to my family re-energised, invigorated, happy and ready to have fun with them again. I didn’t want to just be boring mum who constantly nags everyone, and whose sole existence was to cook, clean and schlep. I wanted to be a fun, silly and carefree mum, partner and friend and this is what I am now constantly striving for in my life.
So I guess my message to you is to not take life or yourself too seriously. There is a child within us all and it is so important to let fun and frivolity have a place even if we are adults with adult responsibilities. Life is far too short to take things too seriously.
Below are 5 reasons why you should bring more humour and silliness into your life!
1) Humour can help you relax: Humour and laughter are a great way to relieve stress and can result in calm and relaxation. When you are relaxed, you can be free from anxiety and this can make you feel more confident and enhance your self-esteem.
2) Humour can create connection: Being silly can bring you closer to others. People will feel more comfortable around you and will take their guard down when they see you being silly or telling a joke. They will feel less intimidated and will be more willing to interact and connect with you.
3) Laughing at yourself is good for you: As you get more comfortable at laughing at yourself, you will find that you are well prepared to deal with any situation with dignity and courage.
4) We need to let the child within us shine: The child within us needs to be given the chance to thrive! When we let go and listen to the childish voice within us, we’ll enjoy more sunsets, take time to smell the roses, climb trees, play silly games and dare to be free again.
5) Look for humour in the crappy stuff: You can either get super worried, angry or stressed out when bad things happen or you can try to see the funny side of life. So much is out of our control. The only thing we can control is how we react to things. The world is often ridiculous – so have a laugh at its expense and I guarantee you will feel much better!